A Beacon of Light for Homeless Youth
It was another pleasant Thursday night at the Drop-In centre in downtown Houston where the trained youth volunteers made their way after a long day's work to spend another evening with the homeless youth. The doors open sharp at 6PM and kids anxiously await outside the old church which has been used for providing a safe haven with dinner and all sorts of clothing and amenities every Thursday night from 6 PM to 9:30 PM for youth aged 13 to 21. Most importantly it provides a place where kids can be kids and they are surrounded by an environment of selfless love without regulations, judgement or requirements. Some of these things are lacking in many homeless youth shelters which the youth tend to avoid for the same reasons. Hence the world of Drop-In centres tends to be a more attractive and intimate environment for them.
The volunteers were ready, the meals prepared, closets sorted and arranged prior to the doors opening. The youth slowly made their way in. Many were regulars with a few new ones who entered cautiously and apprehensively at first. Everyone was welcomed individually as they made their way to the tables where a full meal was served with utmost care and abundance. Many were asking for seconds. Some youth had small babies of their own as teenage and unplanned pregnancy continues to remain a serious issue in this group.
Conversations were encouraged as some volunteers continued to serve and others spread themselves out amongst the youth to dine and chat with them. The youth were from all walks of life, races, and sexual orientations. It was very obvious that most of them had not experienced pure unconditional Love and faced unimaginable heartache and hardships in their lives; whether it was imprisonment, judgement, or severe poverty. If they were victims of sexual or physical abuse, they would
"couch surf" which means living in random homes of friends and acquaintances as long they were allowed to stay, until the time they would overstay their welcome and had to move to the next house. Many were living on the streets of course, and most were not attending school. This was usually because of the fear of being caught or simply from lack of motivation or hope.
During the evening some would open up and others were understandably quiet and reserved. Conversations were usually kept light and casual. After dinner there was a group activity which was pre-planned. The youth were simultaneously taken, two at a time, to a large closet where they would load up a bag full of clothing and all sorts of amenities of their choosing from toiletries to nappies. It was also a great time to chat in a very small environment where the quiet ones could also find a voice. This would bring the evening gently to a close. Many youth would leave shortly after the activity and a few others lingered. After all the youth had left, the volunteers gathered to talk about areas of growth or concern among the youth and also where there was room for improvement amongst themselves.
This small yet important Seva continues to grow and rediscover itself as it finds its place as a beacon of light in the ever changing dark and frightening world in the lives of the Homeless Youth.